I love learning different languages. Back in the day, when we still had dial-up and a buttload of time on our hands, I used to sit for hours in front of Encarta ’97 (I’m sure it will be long before your time) flicking through all the different languages and learning the basics of tons of them. This love for languages eventually made me broaden my horizon to a program sort of like Rosetta Stone but a damn sight cheaper, where I decided I would start learning Spanish. To this day, where the hell I thought I was ever going to slip “the donkey is bad” into general conversation with a Spanish person escapes me.
I’m one of the rare English people who really feel extremely ignorant when I’m in another country and I don’t know a single word of the language (or very little of it) and am basically expecting to get by, by speaking in English and expecting everyone else to speak my language. I honestly feel terrible.
Last year when I joined my old guild on Elder Scrolls Online, I met a guy from South Africa. You may know him, he has been in a couple of my streams. His name is Novadoam. He speaks better English than I do and has the single worst South African accent I have ever heard in my life. Honestly, I was expecting full Leo DiCaprio when he started talking and I was completely taken aback. He sounds like someone talking American with a foreign accent. He tells me (I felt so stupid when the realisation hit me) that naturally, people who live in South Africa, speak Afrikaans primarily, not English and that he learned a lot of English from American daytime TV shows. It’s not like people walk around talking like they’re on the set of ‘Blood Diamond’. How silly of me.
Anyway, I do so love him, he’s adorable, like the little brother I never had and always wanted. (That’s a bit of a lie because I actually always wanted an older brother who would beat bullies up for me and instead ended up with a little sister who kicked a boy called Martin in the balls when she was four and he was six because he was mean to me). I digress. Yes, I love him and I thought it would be really thoughtful if I could speak to him (even occasionally) in Afrikaans. So I downloaded the Duolingo app, which I’ve had a lot of success with before and when it installed, I searched the long list of languages for Afrikaans (which to be honest, I didn’t think was too obscure a language to ask for, in the grand scheme of things).
You can imagine my surprise when it wasn’t in the list. At all. Of course, there were the usuals, Spanish, French, German, blah blah blah. Amongst this list, if I had been walking whilst searching I would have done a double take. As it was, I scrolled down, then up, then down again, hardly believing my eyes.
Apparently, with the aid of Duolingo, you can now learn ‘Klingon’ or ‘High Valyrian’. Don’t get me wrong, I like Game of Thrones as much as the next half-arsed person; not so hot on Star Trek, but I’m not nerdy enough or have as much time on my hands enough to warrant learning either of those languages. And also, which country would I be visiting where either of these languages would get me a drink in a bar? The scary thing is that 490k people in the world are using Duolingo alone, (that’s not counting in any other method of language learning) just to learn High fucking Valyrian. It occurred to me that at this rate, English will be a second language to English people and the most widely used language, worldwide will become a fucking made up language from a massively overrated TV show. Grrr. I have a bee in my bonnet about this, so sorry.
I was absolutely devastated by this. I’m really fussy with learning techniques and I bin things off very quickly if the method of learning is not sinking in or is boring me. I know Duolingo works for me and it’s great that it even checks your pronunciation.
Sigh! Uber sigh! How very UN-Spiffy!
I had no choice but to trawl the Internet and go back to my old fashioned learning method, which is seeing something written down, writing it down myself and then replaying the pronunciation over and over until I sounded partially right in my own head. So far, I can say, (and I thought this would be incredibly useful when Nova tries to get cocky with me) “I don’t speak Afrikaans, I don’t understand”, “How are you?”, “What time is it?”, “I am tall”, “He is short” and the most important one, “Are you married?”. Sadly, I couldn’t find anywhere where it could tell me how to say “the donkey is bad” so I’ll have to ask Nov to get me up to scratch with that one.
I think he was quite taken aback when I told him what I was doing but I could almost hear a smile in the messages. He has said I can practice when he’s next online, so naturally, I’m looking forward to making a fool of myself, forgetting everything and having the pronunciation (which I actually have down pretty well now) all go to pot.
I shall endure!